RAINBOW WAHINE BASKETBALL
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Amy Kotani had her best game when Campbell came to town, scoring seven points and dishing out four assists.
Hawaii gets unexpected boost from Amy Kotani
Persistence earned the 5-foot-2 guard some playing time
Amy Kotani has lived the life of a walk-on for 2 1/2 years with the Hawaii women's basketball team.
She understands the need for patience -- lots of patience -- and hard work. She knows to not lose hope, that there is more to experience as a Rainbow Wahine than just being a member of the scout team.
KENT STATE AT HAWAII
When: Today, 7 p.m.; Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
Radio: Both games live, KKEA, 1420-AM
Tickets: All seats general admission. $7 adults, $5 seniors. UH students with valid ID and children ages 4-18 free
Notes: UH coach Jim Bolla is 18-17 in his second season with the Rainbow Wahine, 318-137 overall in 16 seasons. ... Bob Lindsay is 315-163 in his 18th year at Kent State.
The 5-foot-2 Kotani played four years for the Moanalua Menehunes, the last three as the starting point guard. She was not recruited, but that did not stop Kotani from following her heart.
"I wanted to keep playing basketball," said Kotani, who grew up watching the Wahine games whenever possible. "I love playing basketball. I just wanted to come to UH.
Kotani asked former head coach Vince Goo if she could walk on. He approved. She redshirted, practicing with the team in 2003-04.
"There were a lot of point guards at that time," said Kotani, who was on the scout team running the plays of each opponent before they played UH. "It was more for me to learn, to watch the other point guards,"
When Jim Bolla took over last year he told all the returning players they had a chance because they were on the team the year before. But they would have to work hard if they wanted to stay.
Kotani's second season was very much like the first. She had a working knowledge of Bolla's offense and knew the plays of all the opponents. Then, the moment walk-ons hope for happened.
"I got into the last home game (vs. Rice) for a minute and 14 seconds," Kotani said. "I wasn't nervous. I was excited. It was a good experience, even for that one little minute."
The box score shows Kotani had one steal.
"We met with the walk-ons
at the end of last year and told them what they needed to work on," Bolla said. "They knew we didn't have a true point guard coming back. We had Amy and Shannon (Nishi). They knew they might get an opportunity to get some playing time.
"Our priority is to give reps to the scholarship players. If a walk-on works hard in practice and a scholarship player doesn't perform or get hurt, then a walk-on has a chance to step in.
"The expectations for a walk-on are not the same (as a scholarship player), but the opportunities are the same."
Kotani worked hard last summer lifting weights and running. When school started in August, Bolla informed the Wahine that he wasn't going to keep as many players this year (19 in 2004-05, compared to 16 now) and that the walk-ons would remain on the scout team.
"That's the thing that frustrated me," Kotani said. "I just wanted a chance to get on the court to play.
Amy Kotani: Improved her point-guard play on Hawaii's scout team
"I never want there to be a time where the coaches can say I didn't work hard. I don't want to give them any reason to do anything (that is negative)."
Her persistence paid off. Kotani was comfortable with the Wahine offense since it is very similar to what she played with the Kalakaua club team under coach Dennis Agena.
Kotani became the first of the four walk-ons to play this year when she was on the court for nine minutes against Wisconsin. She scored her first field goal.
"It was a shot from outside on the wing," Kotani said. "I was fired up. As I ran up court, I was thinking, 'Let's go play defense so we can get the ball again and go on offense.' "
Then Bolla included her on the travel roster for the first road trip.
"I was so happy," said Kotani, who is enjoying the increased playing time. "I never had that kind of experience before, being on the road with the team. It was different than when I traveled with Kalakaua."
She has appeared in four of Hawaii's nine games, playing a combined 55 minutes. She is shooting 50 percent from the field (4-for-8) and has 10 assists, seven turnovers and two steals. Her best outing was the second game against Campbell when she scored seven points and had four assists.
"We have a tendency to get a bit out of control," Bolla said. "Amy does two things very well. She gets us under control and she can push the ball up court and stay under control.
"Amy can settle the offense and doesn't take anything away from the offense. We have to be mindful of matchups. We don't want her to be a liability on defense due to her size. That's something she can't control."
Kotani says she has improved in understanding the offense and that helps everything else just flow.
She is majoring in accounting and wants to be a CPA, perhaps owning her own firm in the future. Her academic goal is simple.
"I tell myself I don't want to get any Cs," she said.